Taking action to reduce ground level ozone

In recent years, ground level ozone has become one of the Parkland Airshed Management Zone’s (PAMZ) biggest concerns.

PAMZ, one of several airshed groups in Alberta, is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder group concerned about air quality in west Central Alberta. It was established in 1997 to help find ways to address air quality concerns and problems.

Our air quality in Central Alberta in general is still good. With increasing population, increasing industrialization, growing oil and gas operations, heavier traffic and other growth, the challenge is keeping it that way. Even relatively small actions, such as idling your vehicle, mowing your lawn or cruising in your motorboat add up to a bigger effect.

Formed from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emitted from vehicles, machinery and industry, ground level ozone is a prime ingredient of smog. That’s the brown or yellow layer of haze you can see on hot summer days over Red Deer or even on the horizon. Smog is more than an eyesore. It can worsen respiratory and other health problems, damage vegetation and lower our quality of life.

Under certain conditions, usually hot muggy days in the late spring or summer, we experience infrequent episodes of high ozone concentrations.

An assessment of ozone levels in Central Alberta as monitored by PAMZ indicated we need to take action to prevent levels from increasing and becoming even more of a problem. Recognizing this, PAMZ developed an Ozone Management Plan approved by Alberta Environment in 2009.

We are now implementing that plan and it involves recruiting the voluntary efforts of everyone from companies and municipalities to individuals to reduce or eliminate the human activities that lead to its formation.

Recently (March 24) PAMZ held an ozone prevention workshop in Red Deer with support from the City, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment. More than 40 participants from the oil and gas industry, local municipalities, provincial government agencies, non-government organizations and the public took part.

The workshop focused on building awareness and identifying actions to reduce ozone formation. The idea is that attendees will go out and find ways within their own organizations to build awareness of this issue and strategies to address it.

The workshop was well-received and feedback indicates that more workshops like this should take place in other areas of Central Alberta.

Participants found the speakers informative and helpful about practical actions that industry, municipalities and individuals could take to help reduce ozone.

Guest speakers included Harold Gold from Bonavista Energy, Red Deer City councillor Paul Harris, Miles Kitagawa from Toxics Watch Alberta and Andy Lamb from Alberta Environment.

One participant commented, “I was surprised to learn that ozone emission was as big a problem as it is in this area. There were lots of good ideas on how people can make a difference.” Attendees went away with fresh ideas and a tool kit of resources and incentive programs to help individuals and groups reduce ozone.

In keeping with the workshop theme, ACTION H.E.R.O. CHALLENGE – Where Every Action Counts (ACTION H.E.R.O. stands for Action for a Healthy Environment by Reducing Ozone) participants made 91personal pledges to take individual actions.

These pledges ranged from reducing idling of vehicles and conserving energy in the home to using alternative means of transportation.

PAMZ will be posting these pledges on our website. I encourage everyone to go to our website to learn more about ground level ozone, why you should be concerned and what you can do as an individual. Once there, you can make your own pledges to take personal action. We need your help to reduce ground level ozone in Central Alberta and every action counts.

For more information, check out our website: www.pamz.org

Kevin Warren is the executive director of PAMZ.